Every good leader knows that individual people are the backbone of a strong organization, but achieving true success requires teamwork. As Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” However, not all teams are created equal, and even teams comprised of the most qualified individuals will face challenges if they are not created with intention. Finding the right people to fill roles at your organization isn't the only thing that matters when it comes to forming high-performance teams. Leaders also have to understand how each member will complement the others, as well as how to cultivate shared values and open communication.
1. Building a Team with Complementary Skills and Strengths
Every team has different objectives, so it’s important to know the skills and strengths that are necessary to meet those goals. Start by building a matrix that includes all of the desired skills and competencies and how each member fills those. Then use the matrix to identify and fill in gaps to create a high-performance team.
When hiring, look for employees who will complement the existing team. Enter prospective team members into your matrix to see how they round out the skill sets of the team. After a team has been formed, don’t assume that they have everything they need to be successful. Create a development program to teach new skills and improve existing skills to create a team that is constantly improving over time.
2. Cultivating Shared Values
Shared values act as guiding principles among a team and inform their behavior. When teams are on the same page about what is expected from them and how best to achieve it, the result is better performance. The values you cultivate will depend on the goals of both the organization and the team. Some of the steps leaders can take to cultivate shared values include:
- Defining organizational values
- Aligning the team’s values with both individuals’ and the organization’s
- Discussing the values as a group and getting buy-in from all team members
- Holding each other accountable for adhering to the values
When everyone is aligned by common values, individuals will make decisions in keeping with both the team’s mandate and the organizational vision. This leads to better overall team performance because everybody is on the same page about their work.
3. Encouraging Open Communication
Communication is critical for optimal performance in a team. Create open channels of communication between employees and leaders so that employees feel comfortable sharing feedback, insights, and concerns. This will ensure leaders have all the information they need to make decisions, but also build a rapport that allows them to deliver feedback and provide coaching as needed.
Good communication from leadership includes:
- Clearly defining goals
- Expressing messages with conviction
- Confirming that the listener understands the message
- Keeping an open mind
- Actively listening to feedback and acting on it
On the other hand, poor communication results in inefficiencies and lower morale. It also feeds on itself to create a work environment in which people are not comfortable sharing ideas, providing feedback, or seeking advice from others, all of which detracts from a team’s performance.
High-performance teams don’t happen on their own. Leaders must take proactive steps to identify the necessary skill sets, hire the right people, and continue to develop competencies. When the team shares values about the work they are doing, it shows in their behaviors. Encouraging open and constructive communication enables teams to operate efficiently and at their highest level.
All of these tactics require leadership skills that can be learned and honed over time. Great leaders are always learning and never assume that they can’t benefit from additional training and development. Develop your own skills so you can, in turn, develop the highest performing teams.